“Time to make data do more to develop Tanzania”

Wednesday March 13 2019

 

THE launch of the‘Every Woman and Girl Count’ programme in Tanzania presents manyopportunities to further develop gender statistics through the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Most importantly, it provides a window of opportunity for the Bureau to strengthen alignment of gender statistics to the national development agenda.

In this wide-ranging interview, Dr Albina Chuwa, the NBS Statistician General and also Chairperson of the UN Statistical Commission for Africa and Co-Chair of the Inter Agency Expert Group for SDGs,speaks on statistics and development; explaining how she is pushing to increase data-driven national development planning in Tanzania and in Africa.

Q: NBS and UN Women launched the‘Every Woman and Girl Count’ programme, how important is this initiative in the development of statistics in Tanzania?

 

AC:The Flagship Programme aims to improve availability of gender data that can inform the Sustainable Development Goals’ processes; and to strengthen our efforts towards promotinggender data-driven national planning in Tanzania.

The three-year programme is going to further grow partnerships and work to enhance policy, legal and capacity for gender statistics production, and to ensure improved users’ accessibility. Itwill build on work achieved over the years; and that is whywe have aligned it to the national development vision.

Importantly, the programme will deliver three major outcomes, which are: holding policy dialogue aiming to strengthen political will; data production, analysis and dissemination; and data utilization. 

Our partners who include UN Women and the World Bank are providing support and haveworked with us in gathering qualitative gender data to help identify drivers of gender-based violence.

We are also working on the Household Budget Survey (A standard of living Survey), which we feel is the first survey of its kind that will provide Tanzania the different levels of poverty for women and men.

As we progress with thissurvey (a live survey), more indicators will be generated to continue improving the quality of our gender data and ensure that the data responds to national policy needswhile working in line with international instruments.

I am optimistic that through this support, Tanzania will strengthen its understanding of the contributing factors of gender-related challenges and analysis; alongside having the ability to establish new knowledge on gender.

At NBS, we would like to have as many indicators as possible for us to be able to effectively inform decision making in terms of gender response and looking at the five-year national development plan.

Through the ‘Every Woman and Girl Count’’ Programme, we will also continue strengthening the gender responsiveness of the national development plan by continuously mapping the gender data gaps vis-a-vis the Sustainable Development Goals indicators.

This is an important process because there is aneed to ensure availability of all data sets for gender in areas such as how women contribute to the development of the economy.

More than 70 percent of women in Tanzania are found in the agriculture sector.

However,we also know that there are less women workingin agri-businesseswhere they can earn more money.

Women also face challenges when it comes to access to finance, capital that can enhance their agricultural productivity and grow their businesses.

If those challenges are addressed, oureconomy can grow significantly.

The‘Every Woman and Girl Count’ programme will also ensure that we have poverty indicators that reflect effects on women and men looking at issues such as asset ownership, including land.Because we feel strongly about gender statistics, NBS is going to establish a full-fledged department on gender which will work to enhance national gender budgetingsupport among other areas.

I am encouraged by the fact that the Government is committed to the development of the statistics sector.

Q: You spoke of the support NBS is receiving from partners,can you shed more light on how the Government has demonstrated commitment to the development of statistics considering your advocacy drive on data-driven national planning and development?

AC: The Government is doing a lot in terms of investing in the development of statistics in the country. We receive support through the national budget.

It is not always what we would have requested but they are listening to us and mobilizing additional resources from various sources, including development partners, to support further development of statistics.

We are expecting quite a significant support from another development partner sourced through Government.

This support will finance Phase Two of the Tanzania Statistical Master Plan (2019/20 – 2024/25).

This five-year development plan aims to improve routine data system and other secondary data, including gender.

But also, we are a priority area if you look at efforts underway toreview the 2015 Statistics Act, which seeks to better organize and coordinate data collection and sharing.

We are not for the idea of working and that means we would like tocontinue collaborating with various actors.

This includes partnerships inall statistical information pertaining Tanzania to ensure harmonization, accuracy, credibility and reliability of data.

The Government is also in the process of developing Regulations for the Law on Statistics through consultations with all the key stakeholders.

Looking at the area of gender statistics, which is quite high on the national agenda at the moment, we are working closely with the Ministry responsible for Gender, and they are demonstrating commitment towards supporting theproduction of gender statistics.

Through all this support, which include an expert on gender statistics engaged by UN Women to work directly with us, we hope that by 2021, we will be seeing an improvement in the efficiency of operations in data production and analysis; dissemination andutilization.

Q: The world is changing, how is statistics evolving in line with new demands in Tanzania?

AC: “It istime to make data do more to develop Tanzania”. Any well functioning State putsstatistics or data at the centre of its operations since it informs national planning, supportstransparency, accountability, good governance and transformation.

From a statistical point of view, we need to pay attention to our changing context. For example, we are talking about changing the way we classify gender data, that it should be more than just disaggregated data by sex.

That calls for us to go deeper and do some follow-ups after one survey. That way, we take it upon ourselves to shift statistical work from the traditional way of doing things in order for us to meet the current demands.

If you look at the Labour Force Survey for instance, it does not reflect what type of activities that women and men are engaged in neither does it indicate aspects of productivity, probing who is producing what and how much they are contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

However, we need to be aware that we are serving very enlightened users, who would like to see those gender dynamics reflected through data.

This makes imperative the need to convince partners supporting our programmes on why these data are critical for sustainable development. As a Statistician, I would also like to see the data I am producing beingutilized for policy making to show the value of our work.

When we change the way we work, we also become relevant and demand-driven. We are producing numbers and that is fine, but they should support national planning, design of programmes and other development initiatives.

Q: Tanzania is currently Chairing the Statistical Commission for Africa under the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and Co-Chairing the Inter-Agency Expert Group for the SDGs, what issues are you going to champion to improve statistics at continental level? 

AC: I believe we need to continue improving the quality of leadership and systems in Africa in order to influence the change we want to see in the Agenda 2063.

There are many statistical challenges affecting many countries on the continent that needs attention.

Strong leadership, enhanced capacity in oursystems can help to build strong statistics institutions in Africa. This also includes strengthening statistical structures and institutions at regional and continental level.

On the other hand, we also need to start revising statistical curriculums in our respective institutions of learning, looking at the emerging trends, particularly looking at how important it is now to ensure evidence-based development programming.

There are huge data gaps in all sectors and we need new Statistician graduates who will help us to address these deficits, add value to our work and heighten the data-driven momentum. Currently, for Africa, I think what we need to focus on is making statistical entities autonomous in order to enhance financing and other key processes. Importantly, this will help to make statistics do more in terms ofproviding quality support to national development.

With the portfolios I hold, I believe it is imperative that we lobby for transformation and restructuring ofstatistical entities in countries where statisticians are finding it difficult to do their work due to lack of financial autonomy and other structural-related challenges.

The big issue is that we need to see more investment in statistics in Africa. In 2017,the Ministers responsible for Finance and Economic Planning committed that they would allocate 0.15percent of their national budgets to national statistical operations.

However, I know that the situation on the ground is different because not many African Governments are honoring that commitment.